With so many Americans sitting for hours at work, and so many studies showing that inactivity is problematic to health outcomes, incorporating furniture and fixtures that encourage fitness and physical activity into the library is a way to help patrons in the here and now and let them try out options for future home use.
When the recession hit pause on the plans Kansas’s Wichita Public Library (WPL) had to replace its aging central building, library leaders used the opportunity to tap into community feedback. As a result, the replacement will offer features and services tailored to patrons’ needs and will support the city as it moves into the future by fostering civic growth and engagement.
Few libraries are better positioned to host a daylong conference than the Nashville Public Library (NPL). NPL’s elegant Main Library opened in 2001 and still feels new, in part because its style, which designer Robert A.M. Stern described as “modern classical” and which features Ionic columns, Georgia marble floors, and Alabama limestone facing, doesn’t date as quickly as something intended to look state-of-the-art. Its 300,000 square feet include a large, self-contained event space that was perfect for attendees from around the United States to do a deep dive into library design informed by, but not disturbing, the surrounding library business as usual.
This year, seven libraries received the prestigious 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Award, which recognizes excellence in architectural library design. The award recipients, chosen by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA), exemplify how the traditional role of libraries has evolved. The designs of these community spaces differ to reflect the needs of the surrounding residents, which vary according to neighborhood or campus.
Why does art in libraries matter? Erinn Batykefer of the Library as Incubator Project (and a 2014 LJ Mover & Shaker) cites public art’s role in promoting creativity. “Visible art in the library space, whether through gallery shows, public art or performance, or hands-on workshops, is incredibly important in terms of the ‘incubator library’—a space where the right conditions for creative thought and new ideas are protected and promoted,” she tells LJ. “It serves as a visible representation of the connection among information and creativity and innovation…making the library a visible place where creativity is valued and nurtured.” She adds, “Every library, stripped to its barest mission, seeks to connect people with information. Art is information—the product of a creative process and the process itself.”
The world of academic libraries is constantly changing. Many libraries, for example, have undergone radical spatial changes in recent years, positioning themselves as campus centers for study and socializing. These shifts focus on the student’s or library patron’s experience but show little concern for how librarians’ work spaces are changing to meet the profession’s new demands. Finding minimal literature on this topic, we decided to issue a survey directly to academic librarians to delve into their roles and how their spaces affect the quality of their work.